East Bay Bite of the Week: Barkada's Burger
The burger is not the first thing you'd think to order at Barkada, the rapidly evolving bakery in Temescal. When it opened seven months ago, pastries, breads, and coffee comprised the menu's backbone, a sweet showcase of owner Christina Bondoc's handiwork. About six weeks ago, though, the menu expanded and Barkada blossomed into a full-blown restaurant. As it turns out, that was a great idea.
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The vibe is still as mellow as it's ever been, and sweet, crusty baked goods still play the protagonist. But now, there's more food, all stamped with the Barkada signature. That means an abundance of things made in-house (English muffins, mustard, tarragon vinegar, burger buns), and an emphasis on heritage and heirloom wheat. Bondoc calls the menu "a simple thing," but the features are sophisticated. Think coffee-rubbed pulled pork, Earl Grey roasted chicken sandwich, and shakshuka. She may have been trained as a pastry chef, but Bondoc has a deft hand with a savory menu.
"Really it's about feeding the people I love in the best way I know how to," says Bondoc.
Bondoc's past life found her managing software programmers at Charles Schwab, a life she was happy to leave. She baked on the sidelines, and pushed herself into pastry school after ditching the corporate life. Now, she's a champion of local grains and throws her heart into building community with a quiet, neighborhood café.
The burger is an apt distillation of Barkada's identity now: simple, subtle, deceptively unfancy. There's a secret, savory, erudite world under a bakery's facade. Take the bun -- an olive oil brioche creation, leavened with the restaurant's sourdough starter. Bondoc chose to avoid commercial yeast at every turn, even slipping the house starter into croissant dough. The burger is Prather Ranch ground beef, swiped with herbacious aioli and resting on smoked cheddar (or Valdeon blue cheese if you choose). Paired up with big, crunchy kale chips and a cloud of whipped chive cream, it keeps you feeling refined despite the meat juice streaming down your arm. It's one of those things that should be unremarkable but ends up eternally satisfying thanks to the little things, enough to get it ordered as early as 8am by one regular.
The spot also boasts one of the better happy hours in town, serving up fancy pizzettes and beer for $3 (each) and wine for $5. As if we needed another excuse to go.